What was he thinking?

Eddie Mac's recent column on why Rock of Gibraltar should be Horse of the Year struck Bill as a cry for help.

Updated: December 31, 2002, 12:09 PM ET
By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

Eddie McNamara has had his say about Horse of the Year and the Eclipse Awards on this website and I can say with a sense of genuine concern for this fragile human being that his real purpose did not escape me. It was a cry for help. Eddie, my colleague, my friend, I'm here for you. I understand. Having to grind out column after column can take an otherwise sane man to the edge. Some teeter, while others jumps head first into madness. Clearly, that's where you've gone.

Eddie was last seen wandering around Aqueduct in his underwear having an imaginary conversation with Buckpasser, but I'm here to tell him that there is help for these sort of things these days. There are wonderful doctors out there and some of those little pills they have work miracles. Ed, for further information log on to www.imanutjob.com. You can be well again, Eddie Mac, though after that column, I have to admit I'm a little worried.

After all, Ed is voting for Rock of Gibraltar for Horse of the Year. That's the same Rock of Gibraltar who won as many races -- a big fat zero -- on U.S. soil this year as Zippy Chippy. Actually, that's not entirely true. Zippy Chippy did beat Rochester Red Wing outfielder Larry Bigbie by four lengths in a 45-yard race with Michael Davila aboard.

Granted, there are no set rules or criteria when it comes to Eclipse Award votes, but maybe it's time that is changed. At the next meeting of the National Turf Writers Association, I will propose what will forever be known as the Crazy Eddie Rule: IN ORDER TO QUALIFY AS THE BEST HORSE IN AMERICA (A.K.A. HORSE OF THE YEAR), A HORSE MUST HAVE ACTUALLY WON A FREAKING RACE IN AMERICA, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

Crazy Eddie contends that Rock of Gibraltar was "dominating the world's top turf milers" before he finished second in the Breeders' Cup Mile in his one start in the U.S.. No argument there. He did win five Group I races this year. Perhaps, though, McNamara didn't notice one little problem with that stat: NONE OF THOSE RACES WERE IN AMERICA., ED. (Sorry, I know I promised to be gentle with this frail man).

With the same strokes from his keyboard in which he effuses such praise on Rock of Gibraltar, Ed says he's casting his vote for turf champion for ... High Chaparral. Huh? Let me get this straight: Rock of Gibraltar, who has never raced on anything but turf in his life is your pick for Horse of the Year but not turf champion? That would be like voting for Randy Johnson as the M.V.P. but not the Cy Young Award winner. It doesn't make an ounce of sense ... at least to those of us who still have most of our faculties.

At least a vote for High Chaparral, who actually won a race in the U.S. makes infinitely more sense than a vote for Rock of Gibraltar. But he's still the wrong pick. While High Chaparral won just one race in the U.S., albeit an important one in the Breeders' Cup Turf, With Anticipation raced from March through October, won three Grade I races and ran his old eyeballs out when second in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

(This just in ... Ed's vote for the National Turf Writer's Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service to racing: Chris Harn.)

At the same time Ed is telling the world that Rock of Gibraltar should be Horse of the Year, he's jumping ugly on Azeri, a no-brainer Horse of the Year selection. Azeri was 8-for-9 on the year, won the Breeders' Cup Distaff and was clearly the most consistent and dominant major horse to race in the U.S. this year. The knocks he has on her are that she rarely left California (by the way, Ed, California is part of the United States) and she beat Affluent three times. Who cares and who cares.

He later makes the more pertinent argument that she did not beat males, but that is not nearly enough to overshadow her other accomplishments or erase the fact that no male horse had anywhere close to a year worthy of Horse of the Year consideration.

If you absolutely have to vote against Azeri, how about War Emblem? At least he won two-thirds of the Triple Crown? Or Left Bank? He drilled the best field of older horses assembled this year when winning the Whitney and was arguably the fastest horse to race in this country in 2002. But Rock of Gibraltar? You've either got to be kidding or just plain crazy.

Hang in there, dear friend. It's going to be okay.

• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com

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